Even if they are not the direct targets of abuse, the harmful effects of domestic violence on children cannot be understated. Children coping with family violence often exhibit health problems, sleeping difficulties, anxiety, acting out behavior, and feelings of guilt, fear and powerlessness. They are at high risk for drug and alcohol use, food addictions, teen pregnancy, homelessness, and suicide.
There are ways to help children in domestic violence situations:
- Teach them to stay out of the way. Many children are injured during an attack on their mother, either trying to protect her or because they just happened to be in the way. Help them plan exit routes, safe places to run to, and safe people they can call in an emergency.
- Tell them it's not their job to protect anyone besides themselves.
- Tell them the violence is not their fault, and no one deserves to be abused.
- Accept and respect their conflicting feelings about their parents. A child may love the abusive parent, resent the victim for not protecting them, or feel guilty for not protecting the victim.
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